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We Own This City

This is essentially a six-hour Vox explainer video—sans cute graphics and podcast cadence—shoehorned into a drama. Like The Wire before it, it excels at unpacking long-festering issues in the American criminal justice system, making a product that’s both coherent and cogent out of a complex story on a non-linear timeline. But all the information it wants to convey and all the points it wants to make are spoken rather plainly, which may make it successful as an explainer, but it doesn’t really work as a drama. Despite the series’ factual basis and the best efforts of the cast (especially Jon Bernthal, whose take on crooked cop Wayne Jenkins is genuinely unsettling), the characters never really feel like real people. The dialogue is almost always either narrative exposition or a social studies lecture, with little pretense of being actual conversation. It just kind of feels like it wanted to be a documentary.